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Cut your summer vacation costs with reward points

person with hand on side of face and surprised look holding a credit card in the other hand

These days, you can earn points for just about anything…and the points can add up quickly. This means that you can often use reward points to finance big-ticket items like airfare and hotel stays. Here are some tips from reward plan experts to help you cut your summer vacation costs by using reward points.

1. Keep it simple to start: As you may know from your own experience, reward programs can be complicated. So, it’s easier to just focus on one or two programs in the beginning.

2. Get a bump at the beginning: Assuming that your credit score is good, applying for a credit card that offers free frequent flyer miles when you open the card is an easy way to bump up airfare reward points quickly. Keep in mind, however, this often requires you to charge a minimum amount, and there may also be an annual fee.

3. Understand that all points do not have equal value: For example, a Hilton Honors point may not have the same worth as a competing hotel reward point. The same goes for frequent flyer miles, so be sure to also keep an eye on value to maximize your travel budget.

4. Redeem points and make them count: Make sure you’re getting the most out of your reward points when you redeem them. Using your points for shopping is rarely the most effective use. If you can, save up as many points as possible toward air travel and hotels, because these savings will make a big difference in keeping your vacation budget under control.

5. Create a travel fund strategy: Once you’ve created a strategy for the travel reward programs you want to participate in, decide which cards you want and how to maximize the points you can earn. A little time spent figuring this out can mean less cash outlay on your next vacay.

6. Use shopping portals and dining rewards: Many travel-based rewards programs offer bonuses through online shopping portals. This allows you to earn points for shopping with the portal and for the charges to your credit card.

7. Monitor your points and their expiration dates: Reward points may expire, so make sure you know what points you have and by when you need to use them. Doing so will help ensure that your rewards don’t go to waste.

Using reward points is a great way to get more bang for your vacation bucks! Start thinking about the vacation you want to take this summer, or any other time of the year, and then create a strategy for earning enough points to reduce the amount of real cash you have to shell out.

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